The iconic story of the ageing musician falling in love with the up-and-coming artist has once again found new life in Bradley Cooper’s modern retelling of A Star Is Born.
Cooper’s revitalisation of this tale has now been told four times in film over the past 80 years. The first version of A Star is Born was made back in 1937 in the golden age of movies. Featuring two of Hollywood’s biggest stars of the time, Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the original story tells of an ageing alcoholic and the ingénue actress whom he helps launch the career of on the silver screen.
Underpinning their love story, it is March’s characters knowledge that his failing career and drinking is ruining her chances of stardom and happiness that leads him to suicide, and the masterful foundation of this films story.
The film was first remade in 1954 as a musical drama starring James Mason and the incomparable Judy Garland. The underlying story was broadly similar (except that she was a singer whose potential for movie stardom he recognised). In this version, which many consider the best, Judy’s unique voice was showcased, and she was given extensive singing sequences in the movie. The poignancy of her personal fragility and tragic personal back-story made the movie even more deeply moving for viewers both then and now.
In the 1970s, a further remake was made in an attempt to transport the story to the rock/pop music scene of the time. With Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand taking the starring roles, this version was panned by and has been largely lost to the mists of time. However, hate it all you like, it’s one positive was the inclusion of the Oscar-winning song ‘Evergreen’, sung by Streisand.
So, after a gap of more than 40 years, was it inspired or foolhardy for Bradley Cooper to take on a remake of such an iconic film?
For a number of years, there had been rumours of a potential modern remake. Casting possibilities included the likes of Clint Eastwood, Beyoncé, Tom Cruise and Leonardo Di Caprio, to name a few. But it was Cooper who took it on the challenge, with a level of commitment that really put his reputation on the line by starring, directing (in his directorial debut no less) and collaborating on the screenplay. However, some might say that his bravest decision of all was to sing in the film – a risk which paid off handsomely when the world discovered that he had a great voice, worthy of the ageing country music legend that he was playing.
Cooper’s fresh take on the generational tale was praised by critics and general public opinion. This modern retelling of the story is not only relevant and engaging, but it also stays true to the basic underlying ‘theme’ of thwarted love, a fading male alcoholic star, and female rising star.
The casting of Lady Gaga in the lead female role was largely controversial when it was first announced, but – again – proved to be a masterstroke. She stripped away all the artifice of her extravagant Lady Gaga persona and gave a raw, honest and vulnerable performance in the movie, which has earned her plaudits all around the world.
Bradley Cooper’s acting is masterful
A surprisingly male-dominated tale that seems strange in this modern tale
Melodrama at its finest
The original music score has also been highly praised, with ‘Shallow’ looking like a sure bet for Best Original Song at the 2019 Oscars.
The film also boasts an impressive 7 other Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), Best Actress (Gaga), Best Supporting Actor (Sam Elliot), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing. However, in what could only be seen as a snub, Cooper’s phenomenal directorial debut is sadly missing from this year’s nominations list. Both Cooper and Lady Gaga are also up against fierce competition in the acting categories, facing off against critics’ favourites Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Christian Bale (Vice). Nevertheless, the film’s mass of nominations, and a huge world-wide profit, is itself a win for the film. And you never know – there are always one or two surprises on the night! A great, if slightly naïve modern retelling of the fourth iteration of A Star Is Born.